With the advent of the Internet and smart phone, bullying has been taken to new levels, allowing torment that happens in the classroom to continue long after school hours are over. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that can’t be solved overnight. There are some things you can do to lead your children in the right direction.
October is Anti-Bullying Month, and in recognition of the nationwide effort to combat mistreatment, these tips can help you prevent children from being abused, and, should you lie on the other side of the spectrum, what to do if your child is the bully.
Flip the Script
Children are extraordinarily prone to peer pressure, particularly in elementary and middle school, which is why teaching children en masse to stand up against bullies is an oft-used tactic. Guest speakers address classrooms from coast to coast and pacts are signed by groups of children vowing not to mistreat others, helping make peer pressure empowering to stand up against bullying and taking status away from bullies who have risen to popularity.
Taking it a step further, the thousands of children who practice at Pro Martial Arts studios across the country take part in its ARMOR® program, a comprehensive new bullying and predator prevention program that mixes the physical discipline of martial arts with the mental, social and psychological tools that allow children to defend themselves from the devastating effects of predatory behavior. The theme of the program is “I Am My Own Superhero™,” a message of self-confidence and self-esteem that teaches children to stand tall and stand up for themselves.
Monitor Internet Use
Bullying takes place as much electronically as it does in person, which is why it’s crucial to closely monitor activity on social media outlets and cell phones. But this extends beyond websites such as Facebook. Teens and tweens are flocking to sites including Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest where conversations take place in other forms.
Check your children’s browser history and make sure you know which websites they’re visiting and how often, and collect all user name and passwords so you’re able to login as needed. Programs such as Safe Eyes Parental Control Monitoring Software also allow you to track online activity and behavior on social sites by tracking specific keywords and generating reports based on what your child has been doing and where.
Girls, girls, girls
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, girls are particularly prone to bullying. Girls tend to gang up on each other and while it is typically non-violent, bullying from other girls can have long-lasting effects.
A few things you can do to help prevent bullying among girls in your household: get her involved in activities outside of school so she has a chance to expand her social circle. Don’t push girls into being in the “right” class or on the “best” team; tell them why they are special and help her recognize the special qualities in other girls.
Encourage an environment of respect and empower kids to embrace individuality and uniqueness. Teach children how good it feels to be welcomed and included in all situations so that they’re encouraged to treat others the same way.
With that, make sure that children are interacting safely and respectfully by monitoring play and social time. Keep in mind that children need to be taught social cues so it’s ok for you to help them establish boundaries and limits regarding behavior toward others.
Keep an eye on hotspots for bullying such as bathrooms, secluded corners and private parking areas at school. Bullying relies on an imbalance of power and secluded areas amplify that power because the victim has nowhere to turn and no one to turn to. Take advantage of the opportunity to patrol these hotspots as a chance to take a break for your daily routine and stretch those legs.
Shoe on the other foot?
Dealing with bullies is never a comfortable issue. Parental instincts immediately kick in and it’s natural to want to defend your child. But what do you do if it’s your child who’s the bully?
Talk It Out
Ask your child why he or she is mistreating others. Kids bully for a variety of reasons including low self-esteem, to impress others, lack of parental guidance or because they’re being bullied themselves. Once you’ve identified the reason, be hands on, get involved and keep the conversation going.
If the child continues to misbehave for no particular reason or seems to be undeterred in his or her mission to torment others, a trip to the doctor may be in order. Certain disorders or disabilities may cause behavior that is mistaken for bullying. But, whether diagnosed with a disability or not, the behavior still needs to be addressed. Your family physician can help you modify your approach accordingly.
The Golden Rule
Teach your child to treat others the same way that he or she likes to be treated. Help him or her understand that all people have feelings and all people can be hurt. Encourage kids to think of a time when they were hurt and to remember how it felt. Then remind them that others feel the same way when they’re hurt. Because a little empathy goes a long way.
Lead by example
Children are impressionable and absorb much of what’s around them. Because parents are the primary influence in a child’s life, how you speak and act is a huge influence on them. Make sure you’re setting a good example, which means no gossiping, intimidation of others, or physical violence.
Set this standard for siblings as well since kids who have bullying siblings are more likely to treat others this way. This also extends to television, movies, video games, Internet use and music.
Make your expectations clear
Let your child know that bullying is not okay under any circumstances and that you will not tolerate it. A helpful tip from StopBullying.gov recommends using statements such as, “I know you can stop [negative action] and go back to [positive action]. If you choose to continue, then [consequence].”
Which leads to the next step
Create clear consequences for misbehavior and enforce those consequences consistently. As parents, you probably learned early on the consistency is key in getting children to do anything, which is why it’s all the more important when it comes to consequences for bullying others.
According to the Pacer Center, which champions causes for children with disabilities, kids who “have parents who are unable to set limits, are inconsistent with discipline, do not provide supervision, or do not take an interest in their child’s life” are far more likely to bully others.
Ed Samane is the founder of PRO Martial Arts and creator of the anti-bullying and predator prevention program, ARMOR. He holds a 7th degree black belt in Korean Tang Soo Do and an 8th degree black belt in Hapkido. Grandmaster Samane began his unique instructional program 18 years ago with the belief that karate should teach not only self-defense, but also character, by helping to improve overall attitude, self-worth, fitness, assertiveness and self-awareness in both children and adults.
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